Is There a Limit to How Many Credit Cards I Can Get in a Year?

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If you have excellent credit, then may believe that you can be approved for any new credit card. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In recent years, it appears as if some credit card applications are being denied despite an applicant’s solid credit history.

Why Your Application May Have Been Denied

If a bank will offer you tens of thousands of points or miles when you open a new card, what’s to prevent you from opening up two new accounts? How about ten, or, even, one hundred? There are some credit card enthusiasts and award travel hobbyists who try to exploit these offers to their logical extreme, in the pursuit of as many points and miles as possible.

Customers could theoretically collect these signup bonuses, but not actually use their cards once the minimum spending requirements were met. In addition, without restrictions, cardholders could seemingly apply for the same credit cards and earn multiple sign-up bonuses.

The Issuers Weigh In

Some card issuers are placing limits on the number of cards that customers can receive, irrespective of their credit history and credit score, that can thwart the aforementioned practices (also referred to as card churning). For example, most applications for Chase cards specify that “this product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.”

According to an email from a spokesperson for the bank, “Chase carefully reviews each application, and considers a variety of factors, including the number of cards opened. Customers who open multiple card applications in a short period of time, regardless of issuer, will likely encounter difficulties.”

American Express specifies on its credit card applications that the “welcome bonus offer is not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” An American Express spokesperson confirmed this policy in an email, though they pointed out that the company makes targeted offers to customers as well. 

Finally, a spokesperson for Citi explained in an email that “for Citi-branded Cards, we do not have a hard limit on the number of cards a consumer can have.” However, “bonus points are not available if a cardmember has opened or closed a card in the past 24 months within the same family of cards,” they added. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

How Many Credit Cards Should You Get in a Year?

Whether or not you will be able to receive multiple credit cards might depend on the policies of the particular bank you are submitting your application to. But the more important question is how many credit cards should you apply for each year.

Many American credit card users carry a balance on their cards at least some of the time. These cardholders who are paying interest on their charges are best-served by focusing on paying off their balances, not applying for new credit cards to earn rewards. (These credit card users may alternately want to consider applying for a single new card with a 0% annual percentage rate promotional financing offer for balance transfers. You can find more on balance transfer credit cards here.) 

If you consistently avoid interest charges by paying your entire statement balance in full each month, then, yes, you might want to consider occasionally updating your credit card portfolio. And when you do so, you should try to take advantage of the most competitive new offers, and the most generous signup bonuses. However, you should only be applying for new credit cards if you are sure that you can manage the new accounts responsibly — meaning you can pay all your bills on time and keep the amount of debt you owe on individual cards and collectively below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your limit(s).

Beyond that, it’s important to read the terms and conditions of any credit card you’re considering carefully in order to determine if it’s the right one for your wallet. Also, you’ll want to be sure your credit can handle a small hit. Each credit card application can generate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can ding your credit scores — and multiple inquiries can do some bigger damage, particularly if your credit is on the bubble. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.) 

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

 

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How Do My Spouse & I Apply for a Credit Card Together?

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Couples can gain several advantages when they decide to manage their finances together. First, they can save time by managing fewer accounts. In addition, each person can leverage their financial strengths for the benefit of the household by saving, budgeting and paying bills. Finally, couples can pool together their income, investments and other resources without having to account for who was originally responsible.

When couples manage their finances, they may choose to apply for a credit card together. However, there are two ways that two people can be on a credit card account.

Opening a Credit Card as Joint Account Holders

One way that two people can apply for the same credit card is as joint account holders. With this type of account, both spouses essentially act as the primary cardholder. Both can make charges, make changes to the account, and redeem rewards. But in addition, both cardholders are individually responsible for the repayment of all debts, regardless of who made the charge. Even if one spouse makes all of the charges but doesn’t pay any of the bills, the other spouse is still responsible for repayment. Furthermore, payment history of the account will be reflected on the credit reports of both spouses.

With a standard checking or savings account, it can be quite easy to simply add a joint account holder. But with a credit card account, it’s not that simple. Only a few banks still offer this option, and in most cases, the account must be originally opened as a joint account — you can’t add a spouse to an existing account.

In 2013, Chase announced it would cease offering joint credit card accounts, and other major banks, such as HSBC and Capital One, have followed. Currently, Bank of America, U.S. Bank and Discover still allow customers to open joint credit card accounts.

Adding a Spouse as an Authorized User

A much easier way for a couple to share a credit card account is for the primary account holder to add a spouse as an authorized cardholder. Authorized cardholders receive their own credit card and can make charges to the primary cardholder’s account. However, the primary cardholder is only responsible for repayment and can remove authorized cardholders from the account at any time. In addition, authorized cardholders are not able to perform many account management tasks, such as reporting a card lost or stolen or redeeming rewards — and not all issuers report authorized users to the three major credit reporting agencies.

Pros & Cons to Both Arrangements 

The advantage of a joint account is that both spouses are equal in the eyes of the card issuer. Each has all of the authority and responsibility that they would have if they were the sole account holder. It’s also possible to open a joint account if one spouse has poor credit and the other has much better credit.

However, if the couple separates or divorces, both spouses are still responsible for repaying the debt, and any negative payment information will be reported on the credit histories of both spouses. And if one spouse should die, the survivor will generally still be responsible for repaying the debt.

When you add a spouse as an authorized cardholder, it also has several advantages and drawbacks. On the plus side, adding an authorized cardholder is simple, and can be done with just a quick telephone call. In addition, other cardholders are not financially responsible for debts, which could be an advantage to the authorized cardholder, or a disadvantage to the primary accountholder, depending on how you look at it. For the authorized user, it can be frustrating to be unable to perform some basic tasks on the account, such as redeeming rewards.

By understanding the different ways that couples can open a credit card account together, you can choose the type of account that works best for your needs. If you’re considering whether to apply for a rewards credit card, be sure your credit is in solid shape beforehand. You can see where your finances stand by viewing a free snapshot of your credit report, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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The Biggest Mistake You’re Making on Your Credit Card Application

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It can be painful to have your credit card application rejected. Besides losing out on any rewards and benefits that you had hoped for, being denied a credit card can feel like your entire financial history has been judged and found inadequate.

And while some applicants simply lack the credit history necessary to be approved for a particular card, others make a common mistake that results in their application being rejected. Simply put, most credit card applicants fail to report all of their eligible income.

Income Sources When Applying 

When asked to list their income on a credit card application, many will count only their salary from full-time employment and omit other valid sources of income. For example, you can also include the income you earn from part-time work or from a small business or freelancing practice that you operated on the side.

In addition, most credit card issuers will allow you to include spousal and parental benefits such as alimony and child support. Applicants are also free to include income received from government payments such as Social Security benefits for retirement or disability. In fact, you can even include any income that you receive from your own investments such as your 401K or other retirement savings accounts.

Using Someone Else’s Income

In addition to counting all of your personal income from various sources, you can also include your household income on credit card applications, provided that you have a reasonable expectation of access to it. The CARD Act of 2009 was actually amended for this specific purpose after it was found that non-working spouses had been unable to qualify for a credit card in their own name.

Furthermore, household income can even extend beyond your spouse to include other family members, such as those in multigenerational households. For example, someone who lives with an adult child or with their parents or grandparents could also include any income used by the household. And as with your own income, you can count all of the sources of income from each member of your household, so long as you have a reasonable expectation of access to this income to pay for your credit card bills.

Net Versus Gross Income

Another reason some people underreport their income on credit card applications is that they use their net income instead of their gross income. Your gross income is total amount of salary or wages that you are paid by your employer before any deductions for benefits, taxes or retirement savings. And as any first-time wage earner quickly realizes, the difference between your gross income and what you actually receive in your regular paycheck can be dramatic.

Putting It All Together

Even if you don’t intend to carry a balance (and it’s a best practice not to), a credit card application is essentially a request for a loan. Thankfully, credit card issuers and government rules allow applicants to use their total gross income from many sources, including other household members. By taking the time to add up all of these potential sources of income, and including the total on your credit card applications, you can avoid this common mistake and increase the chances of being approved for your next card.

Of course, it’s in your best interest to apply for a credit card that you can afford to have in your wallet and fits your spending habits. And, no matter what card you choose (or your income), you’ll want to check your credit before applying since you’ll still need a good credit score to qualify for the best terms and conditions. (You can view two of your scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

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I’m 18 & I Want a Credit Card. What Are My Options?

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Getting a credit card is like taking a step toward financial adulthood. It brings you into the world of building credit and paying bills, which almost everyone has to deal with at some point, so it can help to get started as soon as possible.

But the “firsts” of adulthood aren’t always easy, and that includes getting your first credit card. A Credit.com reader recently asked where to start:

Hi, I am 18 years of age, I have no credit history, and I have low income. I’m wanting to get my own place, and would love some help finding a good credit card to build my credit that will accept my low income.

There are three main things that will affect whether or not someone like our commenter could get a credit card: the person’s age, the fact that they have no credit and the amount of money they make.

1. Can You Get a Credit Card at 18?

Let’s start with age. Per the Credit CARD Act of 2009, consumers younger than 21 must have proof of independent income or a co-signer in order to get a credit card. It makes sense: If you’re going to get a credit card, you need to be able to show that you can pay your balance.

2. Do You Make Enough Money?

That brings us to income. Since this commenter referenced wanting to live independently, it seems unlikely that they’d opt for a co-signer. That means this person would need to provide proof of their income. We don’t know exactly what our commenter means by “my low income” — even if it’s not a lot, it isn’t necessarily a credit card deal-breaker. You could always try to ask a credit card issuer what sort of income they’re looking for among card applicants, but you may not get an adequate answer, given that there’s more that goes into getting approved for a credit card than income.

3. What’s Your Credit Like?

This is where credit history comes in. People with no credit don’t have a lot of options, but they can often get secured credit cards (we have an expert guide to secured credit cards you can read here, as well as a review of the best secured credit cards). Just because they’re designed for people with bad or no credit doesn’t mean you’ll get approved, because you still need to show your ability to pay your bills, and you’ll need to make a deposit (which will serve as your credit limit). Generally, that requires having a bank account from which you can make that deposit.

The only way to know for sure what credit card you can get is to apply for it, but you’ll want to do that carefully and sparingly. Each application for new credit can result in a hard inquiry on your credit report (you can read more about hard inquiries and soft inquiries here), so applying for a bunch of credit cards in a short period of time won’t make it any easier for you to get credit.

If you’re rejected for a credit card, the credit card issuer must explain why, and you can use that information to try make improvements to your finances. That way, the next time you apply, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved. After having your credit card application rejected, you may want to wait several months before trying again, so the previous hard inquiry won’t have as negative an affect on your credit. To keep an eye on your credit and how you’re progressing toward building a good credit score, you can get two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

Have questions on credit cards or anything else about personal finance? We’d love to hear from you. You can share your thoughts and questions in the comments section.

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I Keep Getting Rejected for a Credit Card. What Am I Doing Wrong?

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There are lots of reasons to add a credit card to your wallet. Maybe you need to build credit. Maybe you’re looking to score extra rewards via a big sign-on bonus. Or maybe you’re looking to transfer a balance on an existing card to pay off your debts at a lower interest rate.

Whatever the reason, simply wanting (or needing) some new plastic won’t necessarily qualify you for a card. Each lender has different underwriting standards, and you’ll need to meet that criteria to secure approval. Still, if you’re getting rejected every time you fill out an application, there’s a good chance something’s gone wrong.

Here are some common reasons people get rejected for a credit card (and some tips for getting around them).

1. You’re Applying for the Wrong Cards

Believe it or not, you can get a credit card with bad or thin credit. In fact, there’s plastic specifically designed for those who need to build or rebuild their credit. So, while a lackluster credit score could definitely be the culprit, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get approved for a card. You may just need to start applying for plastic your current credit profile can qualify for — like a secured credit card, which requires cardholders put down a deposit that serves as their credit limit, or student credit cards, which are geared to young consumers looking to establish a credit history.

Once you do obtain a credit card, be sure to use it responsibly (i.e. make all payments on time and keep debt levels as low as possible) to improve your credit score. That way, you can apply for credit cards with better terms and conditions down the road.

2. Your Income Is Too Low

Credit card issuers don’t only check your credit when you apply for a card — they also generally ask you for job and income information. And, yes, your current employment status or salary could wind up disqualifying you for a particular line of credit. Again, to minimize the odds of rejection, research credit cards that aren’t clearly being marketed to big spenders, like premium credit cards loaded with perks and a high (think $100 and up) annual fee.

3. You’ve Applied for Other Cards Recently

Some issuers view a long list of new credit inquiries as a sign of danger ahead, the idea being that you either need or will misuse all that new credit. So, even if your credit score is in good shape following an application spree — each generates a hard inquiry on your credit report that could ding your score — you could be getting denied due to all those recent applications.

4. You’ve Fallen Victim to Identity Theft

If these rejections are coming as a big surprise, you may want to check your credit reports for signs of identity theft. Fraudulent accounts or inquiries could be hurting your score and leading you to get rejected for cards that you would otherwise qualify for. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your two of your credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.) If you discover you’re a victim of identity theft, be sure to report it to the proper authorities and to dispute the information with the credit bureaus. You can learn more about what to do if you’re a victim of identity theft here.

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Why Do Credit Card Issuers Need to Know My Income?

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Ever wonder why credit card issuers ask for your income on the card application? You’re not alone. Fortunately, we tapped Eric Lindeen, vice president of marketing for ID Analytics in San Diego, California, which offers credit risk management scores to issuers, to explain why.

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires a consumer’s ability to pay to be included in the decision of making credit card offers, Lindeen said, so there’s no question as to whether a consumer can afford to take out a loan. Credit issuers also ask for your income because it’s a simple way to determine an applicant’s debt-to-income ratio — that is, how much debt they’re carrying versus how much they earn. This ratio is another way for lenders to measure whether an applicant can handle the line of credit and its limit.

Before the law was passed, credit card issuers used various analytical tools to estimate applicants’ income, Lindeen said. That’s because credit bureaus only include information on the majority of someone’s debt, not their income and assets.

“Generally speaking,” he said, “the higher your score, the better your history of managing credit. A person might have $200,000 in credit card capacity and not use more than they need, but as you get to [people with] lower scores, there’s a higher risk they’ll use the credit.”

While credit issuers will invariably ask what you make, what really matters, Lindeen said, is your ability to manage your finances, and do it well.

That’s generally reflected by your credit score, which is comprised of five factors, including your payment history; your debt relative to your credit card limits; your credit history, or how long your credit accounts have been open; your mix of credit accounts; and how many times you’ve searched for new credit. (You can learn more about how to make sense of your credit score here.)

If you’re not sure where your credit currently stands, and want to find out, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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3 Signs You Shouldn’t Get Another Credit Card

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The urge to apply for some shiny new plastic can be tempting — particularly if an issuer is touting big rewards and an even more lucrative sign-on bonus. But while a credit card (when used responsibly) can be a great spending tool, there are times when getting a new one simply isn’t in your best interest.

Here are three signs you’re not ready for a new piece of plastic.

1. You’ve Missed a Payment (or Two) 

It may not seem like a big deal, but even one missed payment can do big damage to your credit score, and if you’re forgetting or struggling to pay your existing credit card bills every now and then, it’s probably not a good idea to add a new one to the mix. Instead, focus on establishing a stellar payment history — the most important factor, incidentally, among most major credit scoring models — before you search for some plastic.

2. You’ve Maxed Out Old Cards 

It’s also potentially problematic if you’re bumping up against the credit limits and/or only managing to make the minimum payment on existing credit cards. Credit utilization — the amount of debt you are carrying versus your total available credit limit(s) — is the second most important factor among credit scoring models. There’s a reason for that — if you’re bumping up against existing credit limits, chances are a new one will put you over the edge and cause you to miss payments. Before you go shopping around for new plastic, it’s a good idea to keep your credit utilization rate below at least 10%, and ideally 30%, of your total available credit limits.

One caveat: If you’re carrying a lot of high-interest credit-card debt, you may want to consider a balance-transfer credit card, which will let you move that balance to a new card with a low-to-no introductory annual percentage rate for a specified period of time. Just know if you take this route, you’ll want to pay down those balances before the introductory period ends — otherwise, you could face paying retroactive interest. It’s in your best interest to put that new credit card on ice so you pay down old balances and don’t run up new ones.

3. Your Credit Score Is in Rough Shape

Sorry to break it to you, but a bad credit score won’t qualify for most credit cards out there (minus secured credit cards, which are designed to help people rebuild or build credit). And fair credit scores aren’t going to qualify for the best terms and conditions, so if your credit is looking a little lackluster — whether due to the aforementioned missed payments, maxed out credit lines or other missteps — it’s probably a good idea to work on your scores before filling out any applications. Otherwise, that new plastic is likely to cost you in interest and even late fees, particularly if you’re prone to carrying a balance. (You can see where your credit score currently stands by viewing your two free credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

Consider taking your so-so credit as a sign you’re not ready for a new credit card and work on fixing your credit instead. You may be able to improve your credit scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit-card balances and limiting new credit inquiries while your score recovers. You can build good credit in the long-term by making all payments on time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of credit accounts as your score and your wallet can handle them.

[Offer: Your credit score may be low due to credit errors. If that’s the case, you can tackle your credit reports to improve your credit score with help from Lexington LawLearn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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The Real Reasons You Were Rejected for a Credit Card

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Many consumers dread being turned down for a credit card. But what you may not realize is that you actually can control a great deal of the factors that go into the credit issuer’s decision. Of course, it’s hard to get issuers to explain their criteria because it’s essentially their secret sauce, or how they do business.

But after speaking with Eric Lindeen, vice president of marketing for ID Analytics in San Diego, California, which offers fraud prevention tools and credit risk management scores to issuers to help them manage portfolios and onboard consumers effectively, we got the inside scoop on how it all works. Read on to learn why you may have been rejected — and what you can do to avoid it.

1. Underwriting Practices Vary

“Different institutions have very different practices,” Lindeen said. Depending on where they rest on the totem pole, their underwriting process could be more or less complicated analytically. Big issuers, for instance, “could be using hundreds of variables to determine [whether to take on a borrower],” while at smaller institutions, the process may be much simpler. “There’s basically an income threshold you have to reach and a credit score cutoff, and that’s all there is,” Lindeen said.

2. Your Credit Score Stinks 

“Realistically, there are only a couple levers that a bank or credit issuer has to work with,” Lindeen said, and one of those is the consumers’ credit risk, which is usually correlated with their credit score. The higher the score, the less likely they’re perceived to be a liability or get rejected, he continues, “and generally the [annual percentage rate] is going to be tied to how much credit risk there is for the consumer.”

Interestingly, large issuers have several APR “bands,” or groups, that they lump consumers into based on their credit score, Lindeen said. And “they’re going to slot you according to whatever risk you represent based on past behavior.”

Smaller institutions, by contrast, may only have two APR bands, which means consumers with poor credit may be able to qualify for a card, whereas they’d likely get rejected by a larger institution. “The smaller organizations have a bigger pool of people in a single risk band, so there are more people with better credit subsidizing those with poor credit,” Lindeen said.

3. Your Income Fell Short 

Another factor that makes a big impact in whether a consumer is approved for a card or rejected is the consumer’s income and probable spend on their credit cards. Typically, the more you earn, the more you can spend, and issuers make money based on merchant interchange fees from this spending. “If [an issuer] sees someone that’s going to have a significant amount of spend, that will be a more profitable customer, so they’ll be willing to lower their APR or increase benefits in order to attract them,” Lindeen said.

What to Do 

To help reduce your odds of being rejected for a credit card in the future, taking charge of your credit now is key. So if you don’t know where your credit stands, it’s a good time to find out, as doing so can help you determine whether you can take out other financing as well. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

If something looks suspicious or is flat-out inaccurate (think misspelled names and wrong addresses) get in touch with the credit bureau in question to hammer it out. Disputing errors on your credit report is one thing you can do to help beef up your score.

From there, you can make a game plan to get any debt and monthly payments in check. Consistently making payments on time can help improve your score while paying down outstanding debt can help lower your credit utilization — how much debt you carry on credit card(s) relative to their limits — which lowers your risk of default in lenders’ eyes. Credit experts generally recommend carrying a balance below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your limit for the best scoring results.

[Offer: Your credit score may be low due to credit errors. If that’s the case, you can tackle your credit reports to improve your credit score with help from Lexington Law. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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I Improved My Credit Score. Can I Get a Better Credit Card Now?

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Have you worked hard to pay your bills on time and reduce your debt in order to improve your credit history? If so, it might be time to see if your hard work’s paid off by trying to get a better credit card. Here’s how you can leverage your improved credit score to get a credit card with better rates, rewards and benefits.

See What You Qualify For

When you applied for your current credit card, you gave the card issuer permission to look at your credit report, which determined your creditworthiness. But what you may not have realized is that the card issuer only considered your creditworthiness at the time of application. It may not re-evaluate your credit on its own in the months, or years, that follow. Now that your credit has improved, its up to you to ask for an improved credit card that better reflects your most recent credit history.

Thankfully, there are ways to get the credit you deserve when your credit score has improved. First, you will want to take a look at your scores by using Credit.com’s free credit report summary. Next, you should research the features you are looking for in your next credit card, preferably ones that your current card lacks. For example, you might look for a 0% APR promotional financing offer, a lower standard interest rate or additional rewards and benefits. You can then select and apply for a credit card that meets your needs, includes the features you are looking for and that is designed for your credit profile.

How to Improve the Card You Have

What if you simply want a card with a lower standard interest rate? Many cards now offer a range of standard interest rates, depending on your creditworthiness when you applied. So if you have a card that offers multiple interest rates instead of just one, then you may not have to apply for a new card to get the rate you deserve. Instead, contact your card issuer and ask to reevaluate your card’s standard interest rate, based on your current creditworthiness. You could also ask it to extend the credit limit on your current card, rather than apply for a new one.

To increase your chance of of receiving better terms, it will help to pay off as much of your outstanding balance as possible. Doing so will reduce the card issuer’s exposure to default while presenting yourself as a lower risk. In speaking with your card issuer, highlight your improved credit history and desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with the issuer. You can even say you’ll consider other card issuers if they can’t meet your needs. If you’re unsuccessful, you may have to apply for new account with a different card issuer.

By requesting better terms from your existing credit cards or applying for a new card, your improved credit score can help you enjoy better credit.

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